Esports create campus community

Luke Valadie

Esports, or competitive video gaming, have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, with more gamers than ever flooding the industry’s tournaments. Many students on campus have joined the craze, competing against each other and teams from other colleges.

According to the World Economic Forum, the esports industry is likely to make $1.4 billion by 2020. The traditional sports industry has taken note of this trend with many organizations, including FIFA, creating virtual versions of their tournaments. 

At the highest level of competition, players are battling for serious cash prizes that exceed those of some more conventional sports. The winners of The International 2019, a Dota 2 tournament, took home over $15 million, more than seven times what golfer Tiger Woods received after winning the 2019 Masters Tournament.

Although gamers at the College aren’t competing for millions of dollars, the esports craze has developed a strong foothold on campus. The League of Legends Club organizes weekly meetings, offering a venue for students to compete against one another in the online game.

“We have weekly meetings on Fridays,” the club’s president Abraham Park ’22. “On Fridays, we try to get 5 v. 5 going on, for people to play with each other.” In addition to these weekly, pick-up style games, the club also arranges a more formal tournament every year. “We have a tournament that we host [during] Winter Study,” he said. “Last year we had, like, 50 people play. We had some people come in from other schools. And a lot of alums came.”

The club doesn’t just organize competitions; it also provides opportunities to enjoy professional esports with other fans. “The professional League of Legends scene [has] World Championships every fall, and so we host watch parties for that,” Park said. “We host one big watch party for the Grand Finals. It happens once a year, it’s a lot of fun.”

Park sees the club as a great social outlet for students at the College. “Stereotypically, [with] video games, you don’t socialize and stuff, but I think we have a good group,” he said.

The title of the club’s best player is highly contested, Park said. “So I’m gonna name someone, and then everyone else is going to be like, ‘oh, what, you didn’t name me?,’” he said. “[It’s] Eric Johnsen ’21. He’s always there, he’s always there at the weirdest hours.”  

Late-night sessions are common for many of the club’s members. “After [meeting the club’s founders], I would go to their weekly Friday night club meetings in Jesup where we would game together late into the night,” club board member Derek Chen ’21 said.

The League of Legends Club isn’t the only esports organization on campus. Super Smash Bros., a popular Nintendo series, has a devoted following at the College. “I got involved through my entrymate, Chris Mykrantz ’20, who had a game set up in our entry,” Spencer Carrillo ’20, the treasurer of the Super Smash Bros. Club, said. “The club itself was started mainly by a group of students from the class of 2018, who also started playing in their entry during their first year.”

The Super Smash Bros. Club provides opportunities for members of the College community to go head-to-head with one another. “We haven’t hosted our first tournament of the year yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be organized soon,” said Carrillo. “We typically try to stream our tournaments live on [a site that hosts video game broadcasts], and we previously would have other students on camera commentating on games.” 

The club has gotten involved in the regional esports scene. “We have had members travel to a lot of different tournaments in the Northeast, most frequently to tournaments at RPI,” Carrillo said. “We have also hosted players from MCLA for local tournaments.”

In the past, the club has helped raise money through gaming competitions. “For both my freshman and sophomore years, we were hosting events with 20-plus entrants, [with] people traveling from out of the college to compete, Mykrantz said. “We even threw together a charity event that raised hundreds of dollars for the Puerto Rico relief fund [after Huricanne Maria].”

Esports have carved out a prominent role in popular culture and are poised to continue their rapid growth. Newzoo estimates that more than 450 million gamers will be competing in esports by the end of 2019. The League of Legends and Super Smash Bros. clubs provide students at the College with opportunities to get involved in this new form of competition, while building a gaming community along the way.